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An Era-Defining Win

Written by Liam Gaudet, Senior Editor


Photo by ON3


I couldn’t be happier to look like a complete idiot this week after I criticized Notre Dame and its staff for its inability to develop a killer instinct. Although we are far from where we want this program to be, it feels like leaps and bounds were made last Saturday after a display of utter dominance for four quarters against the nation's fourth ranked team. You could even argue that Notre Dame could have made this game even uglier, but nevertheless, this was the showing that we have all been patiently waiting for, and have come to expect under this new regime. There are definitely some factors about this game that would be terrific to see moving forward, so let's get into it.

What can be said about an offensive line that ran the ball for over 260 yards against one of the best run defenses in the country? For a while, I was worried we were never going to be able to figure out how to move the ball, let alone dominate a defensive line studded with 5-star talent. Credit to the boys up front, as well as Harry Hiestand for bringing prominence and strength back into the running game. We haven’t seen a rushing performance like this since North Carolina, and I can’t get enough of it. When a team knows exactly what you’re going to do and can’t stop it, there’s absolutely no way you don’t win. Blake Fisher and Joe Alt are bonafide superstars and will continue to be at the forefront of what Notre Dame can do on the ground for a few more seasons. The interior can’t be ignored either, as Zeke Correll and Jarret Patterson have turned around slow starts to the season and are looking more and more like the leaders of this group we expected them to be initially.

Defensively, Benjamin Morrison should be a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award at the end of the season barring a monumental falloff. The secondary has been the biggest crutch for this team since the departure of Julian Love, and man does it feel incredible to have some ballhawks back there again. I was initially skeptical of the change that put Morrison ahead of Lewis on the depth chart a few weeks ago, but I guess that’s why I’m not a coach. After being picked on consistently in prior games, Morrison made two game-defining interceptions in the second half, the latter of which he returned for a touchdown. Incredibly, Morrison is only a freshman, and has the spatial awareness and body control of an NFL veteran. What an incredible night for that young man, who will no doubt have teams thinking twice before targeting his side of the field.

Al Golden seemed to have the perfect game plan to expose a Tiger’s offense that was in massive flux due to quarterback struggles, and was able to mix up the pressures to confuse D.J. Uiagalelei, whose most recent trip to South Bend was a far cry from the young gunslinger we saw back in 2020. Uiagalelei was sacked four times. Courtesy of J.D. Bertrand, Howard Cross, Tariq Bracy and of course, Isaiah Foskey. Golden kept the heat coming all night long, which kept the Tigers in third and long situations where they were unable to convert. It looks like Golden has been one of the most consistent offseason hires this season, and I’m excited to see him develop this dynamic system even further.

Brian Mason has me ready to run through a brick wall after reviving an Irish special teams unit that was poisoned by fair catch enthusiast and Kelly lapdog Brian Polian. Mason has led an Irish unit to six punt blocks this season, which leads the country. What an incredible hire by Marcus Freeman, and with the amount of points that Mason has accounted for, he’s essentially co-offensive coordinator.

I think an underappreciated performance in this game was that of Drew Pyne. As sad as it may sound, he did not do anything to hurt the team this week, and that’s all that I could have asked from him. Coming into this game, I expected Drew Pyne would need to have the game of his life in order for us to have a fighting chance against a defensive juggernaut. Instead, Pyne went a modest 9/17 with 85 yards and a touchdown pass to Michael Mayer (who now holds the record for career receiving touchdowns at Notre Dame). It's not his counting stats, but his reliability that impressed me this week. He also did well when called upon to run, as he scampered into the endzone on a read option, as well as improvised a few times to make forward progress.

All in all, this was a performance for the ages for the Irish, who have finally earned their signature win. This is what we’ve all been waiting for, so let's elevate, not stagnate. The Irish are trending in all the right directions to end the season, and are poised to turn around what initially felt like a disaster. It’s time to ride this momentum into Navy!


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